Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, March 01, 2009

God's shrinking domain? - Origin of Life On Earth: Scientists Unlock Mystery Of Molecular Machine

ScienceDaily - March 1, 2009

A major mystery about the origins of life has been resolved. According to a study published in the journal Nature, two Université de Montréal scientists have proposed a new theory for how a universal molecular machine, the ribosome, managed to self-assemble as a critical step in the genesis of all life on Earth.

"While the ribosome is a complex structure it features a clear hierarchy that emerged based on basic chemical principles," says Sergey Steinberg, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor who made his discovery with student Konstantin Bokov. "In the absence of such explanations, some people could imagine unseen forces at work when such complex structures emerge in nature."

What is a ribosome?

The ribosome is an enormous molecule responsible for translating the messages carried in the genetic code of all organisms into the workhorse molecules of the cell – proteins – that carry out all functions, including replicating the genome itself. As the world celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of the Father of Evolution, Charles Darwin, Prof. Steinberg's theory brings the scientific community even deeper into the study of the origins of life.

By examining the molecular self-organizing processes that preceded the living cell, the point where time begins for biologists, Prof. Steinberg goes further than Darwin and the many evolutionary biologists who followed could have imagined

By the standards of biological molecules, ribosomes are immense. Though visible only through lenses of the most powerful microscopes, comparing most other biological molecules to this behemoth is like comparing a tricycle to a jumbo jet. Having spent years gazing at the detailed structure of the ribosome, Prof. Steinberg pondered how such an immense and complex structure could have assembled itself from smaller building blocks that existed on the early Earth.

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